The $1.9 Trillion COVID relief bill that was passed by the House early morning last Saturday includes over $100 million for public transit expansion in Pelosi’s home state, raising questions and objections from some Republicans.
According to the previous FOX Business report, the one hundred million funds are aimed at drilling a new tunnel for phase two of the Bay Area Transit (BART) expansion that would extend the existing public railway into Silicon Valley.
Democrats Reject GOP Stimulus Amendment To Move $100M+ From Silicon Valley Subway To Children’s Mental Health | The Daily Wire
Shame on Dems! https://t.co/H4vpBp37MF
— Lana Bruno (@LanamarriBruno) February 27, 2021
Before the passage of the overnight COVID relief bill, Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) introduced a motion to send the bill back to the budget committee to redirect the said amount from the BART expansion to mental health programs for students.
The CDC has warned the White House that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the “social, emotional and mental well-being” of many young people. They have been forced to distance themselves from friends and family. The breaks in the continuity of their learning and health care had also significantly impacted their overall health, together with the significant events in their lives that they missed.
Hinson said, “We’ve seen increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges among our kids who have been trapped behind screens for a year now.”
In addition to this, Hinson also alleged that the railroad expansion is a “pet project” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), rather than being a COVID-related need.
Hinson also said, “This is Washington pork spending at its worst.”
Democrats’ spending bill sends $140 million to Speaker Pelosi’s pet subway project in California. This is Washington pork spending at its WORST. My amendment would take away this carve out & redirect this money to mental health programs for students. #studentsoversubways pic.twitter.com/tCOE3emm1N
— Ashley Hinson (@RepAshleyHinson) February 27, 2021
Meanwhile, in her comments during the debate session, Pelosi did not specifically address said public transit expansion in California. She only mentioned that the COVID relief bill would provide support to millions of children who are living in households with food insecurity, help the families of 27 million children with an expanded child care tax credit and get children back into schools.
Pelosi said, “We are putting children safely back in schools with a $130 billion investment in reopening schools and making up for lost learning, and to do so safely.”
However, before passing the COVID relief bill by a vote of 219-212, the House voted down Hinson’s amendment.
Even though the bill could still face a roadblock in the Senate, Republican lawmakers are expected to object to the $15 an hour minimum wage provision stuffed in the relief package.
What % of the plan goes to COVID issues and what goes to other pet projects like a Bart tunnel? Explain to media.
Please consider to lead with a focus on the COVID priority issues and NOT on non essential items. Do not call the latter items COVID relief.
— Jim Fagan (@jimrfagan5) February 25, 2021
The funding for phase two of the BART expansion was hidden into the House Transportation Committee’s section of the COVID relief bill under a funding provision for “all projects under section 3005(b) of Public Law 114-94 that received allocations for the fiscal year 2019 and 2020” except “projects open for revenue service.”
However, only one project fits that definition, and that is Pelosi’s “pet project,” the BART phase 2 extension.
According to the documents reviewed by Fox News, the distribution formula section of the bill also indicates that the BART project would receive approximately $112 million.
According to the Mercury News, the BART phase 2 extension would use one of the largest boring machines ever built in order to drill a tunnel for rail transit underneath San Jose, California.
Once again, the grand opening of two BART stations in Santa Clara County is being pushed back and there's no word when exactly the transit agency plans to complete the long awaited expansion project. https://t.co/jh4Grvs18l
— KCBS 106.9 FM/740 AM (@KCBSRadio) November 19, 2019
The paper has also reported that the BART project has seen its cost estimates increase repeatedly and has provoked outrage among local Bay area officials over the excessive cost of local sales tax funds that are going to the project.
There are worries that the tunnel’s ambitious nature will increase the risk of problems and the chances of the project going further than the budget or see major delays.
In 2018, the project was estimated to cost around $4.69 billion in 2018. However, the estimates have already skyrocketed to $6.9 billion. It is also currently scheduled to be completed in the year 2030.